Martin and Lubambo were welcomed to the Sheldon Concert Hall with a hearty round of applause as they took their places on the American bandstand. Before the music began, the two introduced themselves and led a natural conversation that allowed the audience to get to know the duo. The guitarist, originally hailing from Rio de Janeiro, and the St. Louis native pianist, who spent much of his 20s soaking in the culture in New Orleans, have been long performing together, learning each other's styles and teaching each other much more. The two told stories and cracked jokes at each other's expense in a display of genuine connection that only two close friends can have -- their banter had the audience laughing out loud. That feeling of connection became even more apparent as they began speaking with their other voices.
The concert opened with a fierce Brazilian jazz number composed by Lubambo himself. The reflection from the stage light off his guitar danced around the wall as he swayed with the energy of the song, totally enveloped in the music. Rapid fire finger picks plucked seamlessly up and down the neck of the guitar accompanied by the powerful sounds from the Steinway & Sons piano as the two artists fed off each other's creative energy, trading glances and joyous expressions. Their synchronicity and vitality received roars of applause after every improvisational solo by Lubambo, who nonchalantly and calmly scratched his nose between parts. It seemed the audience let out a collective sigh from the adrenaline rush after the song reached its climax -- and the night was only beginning.
While Lubambo brought his bossanova style from his homeland, Martin shared his love for New Orleans style jazz. The electric guitar replaced the acoustic for some commanding jazz licks that marked the change of scenery from the warm beaches of Rio de Janeiro to the party cove that is Bourbon Street. Martin rose and fell in his seat with the notes as he rediscovered his days living in the Big Easy, with many members of the audience doing the same in their seats. Through the jovial melody, one could almost imagine a colorful parade marching through the streets with confetti in the air and smiles on faces, celebrating the universal and uniting sounds of music. Lubambo's strings were able to keep up with Martin's keys with ease in a sound that very much contrasted its Brazilian counterpart, but at the same time shared its vivacious vibe.
The alternation between styles continued through the night, with more natural conversation and the two teasing each other in between. The night was highlighted by a tranquil number entitled "Song for Kaya" -- inspired by the news of the birth of Lubambo's niece that left a woman in the audience softly weeping -- which featured a brilliant moment of improv and spontaneity when Martin began strumming the piano strings with a guitar pick for a flamenco-style guitar piece. A touching rendition of "In Your Own Sweet Way," played in memoriam of the late great David Brubeck, offered another standout performance.
The two hour set seemed to go by much too quickly as the pair played their encore and took their final bows. The audience buzzed with excitement after the standing ovation as they filed out of the hall after such a display of musical mastery. It is not too often St. Louis gets the chance to see such a diverse pair of skilled musicians perform such a rich range of tunes, but Romero Lubambo and Peter Martin delivered.
All photos by Mike Gualdoni.